Tabitha Mann of Warren and her riding partner, Jason Ayers of Niles, left Cleveland Hostel this morning on the first leg of a 320-mile, five-day bicycle ride to Yeatman’s Cove in Cincinnati to raise awareness and money for Youngstown’s Potential Development Program School of Autism.
Last year, Mann decided to turn her “crazy bike miles” into something positive and rode 363 miles from Washington, D.C., to Pittsburgh raising money for the American Cancer Society.
This year Mann, whose son, Tyler Mann, 8, has selective mutism and is diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome on the autism spectrum, decided to ride for Potential Development.
Selective mutism is a childhood anxiety disorder characterized by a child’s inability to speak and communicate effectively in select social settings, such as school.
“I homeschool Tyler. As of now, he can’t handle school,” she said.
Mann is married to James Mann Sr. and also has a daughter, Kaylee MacDonald, and two stepchildren, Ashley Mann, who rode with her on the 2012 ACS ride, and James Mann Jr.
Ayers and Tabitha Mann, who have been training for the trek since March, said they “absolutely intend to complete all five stages. It might hurt, but we’ll do it.”
In addition to riding their bikes, they will be completing various creative tasks for reaching their fund- raising goal.
When they reach their goal of $1,000, Mann said she will die her hair blue. As of Friday, $914 had been raised for Potential Development, so blue hair looks likely.
Also, throughout the trip, Mann will allow strangers to throw a pie in her face, wear her clothing inside out and backward for a day, wear underwear on her head for a mile and peel a banana with her feet.
Ayers will randomly dance in public for an entire song, and they will prepare lunch for a stranger.
They also have made some daunting physical pledges if they exceed their $1,000 goal.
“If we hit $2,000, we’ll turn around and ride halfway back to Cleveland; and if we reach $3,000, we’ll ride all the way back,” Mann said.
But, she added, “It’s not just about us. It’s about people helping us help Potential Development.”
Several hotels are supporting their effort by providing lodging and breakfast. They include The Cleveland Hostel, The Perry Inn of Massillon, Fairfield Inn & Suites Columbus Polaris, Harmony Hill-Town House in Mount Vernon and Ramada Xenia. Other major sponsors include Acepipeline Inc., ESW Energy Inc. and Millik Insulation.
“Tabitha and Jason have worked so hard to train for this fundraiser and support the Potential Development School of Autism. I am grateful for their support and look forward to following their journey through Tabitha’s blog,” said Paul Garchar, Potential Development executive director.